The prusik is a useful friction hitch that slides freely when not weighted, but bites down on the rope when you do weight it. Many variations on the prusik
exist, including the autoblock and klemheist, but for simplicity we’ll stick with the prusik. You can learn the other hitches down the road. The most
common use for the prusik is to back up your rappel device by tying a prusik on the rope below the device. (Details on that technique are covered in
the section on rappelling.)
Two prusiks placed on a rope and clipped to your harness with long runners let you climb the rope by alternately weighting and unweighting the prusiks,
inchworm style. This technique is a lifesaver when you fall on an overhanging route and are stranded in space, unable to get onto the rock. Even one
prusik on a rope is a good handhold, letting you boost yourself past an impossible move.
To tie a prusik, use 4 to 6mm perlon cord tied into a 12-inch loop with a ring bend. Thinner cord grips better than thick cord, and shoelaces will work
in an emergency. Wrap the loop three or more times around the rope until it bites well enough not to slip. Webbing works in an emergency, but requires
more wraps to grip, and is more difficult to loosen and slide.
TAG IT, BAG IT!
My ropes have a definite life cycle: First use is for the mountains or ice climbing while the dry treatment is fresh. Afterward, a rope becomes my cragging
cord. Occasionally, I may have to shorten a rope due to repeated falls, careless crampons or wayward rocks, ending up with at least four ropes
to keep track of. A small labeler, the kind that prints out plastic messages, can be bought at any office-supply store and offers a quick organizational
solution. The plastic labels, which I wrap around the ends of the rope, are surprisingly strong. I’ll print the rope’s length, where it has been used,
my name and address, or even inspirational sayings or safety reminders. Also, if I have to cut a rope, I always re-mark the middle with a bit of athletic
tape, applied with the rope under body weight. Once the rope is unweighted, the tape really sets into place.
—Conrad Anker, Bozeman, Montana